"Sacramento River Shine" - Oil - 24" x 30" - $1800
"The Sacramento River, running through Redding, CA, defines this 'river city.' Looking west, the afternoon light has a special drama. I'm glad that I chose a large foremat for this spectacular scene." --- SFG
Work in progress --- Please send your questions and comments!
As I started drawing with my usual directional lines, I set the horizon high on the canvas to describe the spread of the river plane before me. At the bottom right, the shapes of the shrubs lead the eye to back up to the bridge and the light beyond it. The zigzag- lines on the left are to signify the reflected light off the water that is the most eye-catching element of the painting. This shape must be in perspective, too, and will lead the eye from the top again, completing a cycle through the work.
The first darks show how effective the directional planning is. Note the gap on the left side of the middle line of dark. Without it, the viewer's eye would find it hard to pass into the background.
I wish I had taken this photograph just before I put in the highest plane of the trees in the distance. At first, all the planes were the same value and it was very flat. There was no feeling of aerial perspective at all. As soon as I cooled the tops of the trees and laid in the far bank of the river, it began to fall into place. Keep those edges in the background soft!
There's no harm in putting in some of the lights at this stage to help you decide what your value range will be. Here I put in the sky to help me judge the other lights in the painting. It will guide me when I determine the value of the water, the value of the light on the water, and the value of the gravel bars in the both foreground and middle ground.
As I continue to lay in areas and adjust the values, I keep checking to see that each dark is on the proper plane in respect to the others. Nothing should jump too far forward from its location in perspective, nor should it lay back too much.
I had anticipated having a problem and was watching for it. The gravel bar in the foreground was too light. I darkened the middle ground gravel bar, so it reads correctly and won't be mistaken for water.
After I took this photo, I finally switched to a smaller brush right after the entire canvas was covered. I had used a 12, and now I'm going to use an 8.
The artist must find a balance between too frequent repetition that's boring and repetition to create a rhythm through the scene. I must make choices as I return to each area. One choice might be to simplify the area. Or one could be to put more interest in another area, thereby subordinating the first. Said differently, you can change the area that doesn't fit or you can change another area so the original one fits.
As I work through an area of color, I try to make each area interesting while maintaining the overall value of the area. When creating interest, you follow the same principle you follow as you design your painting. Consider direction, value, shapes, variety, and so on.
Here I finally laid in the lightest values that were the reflections on the water. As you can tell by this commentary, I concentrated on controlling the values throughout the painting so that this lightest value can still have some color in it. It paid off.
Second painting session:
When I leave an unfinished painting, I have several choices. I can return soon (I make sure the studio stays very cool) and scrape any undesirable areas and then rework wet into almost-as-wet. Alternately, I can let the painting dry completely. When I return, I sand off any hard ridges or artful globs of paint that would interfere with applications of the next layer of paint.
You'll see here that I've scraped some of the light areas that I was not happy with. By the time I returned to the work, the paint was a little "chewy" and would not have worked as wet-into-wet. Since I was satisfied with most other areas, I scraped and knocked off the tops of these strokes so they would not interfere with new applications.
Remember, the quickest way to learn is from someone else's mistakes! You don't have enough time in your lifetime to make them all yourself.
As I finished this painting, I concentrated on keeping the edges soft, even the edges of the reflected light. I added interest in the brush of the foreground so that the foreground and background would be balanced. Also, I darkened the right side of the bank of the shoal in the middle ground. Just the last few tweaks....